Alchemist's Gift

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The sun lay just beyond the horizon, and the sky was touched with soft lavender, backlit with golden light that clung to the skyline. Marcella was still asleep, and Cesare had dressed and had already eaten. He warmed his hands one last time at the hearth, left the kitchen, and crossed the yard. He pulled the door open and entered his workshop, opened the shutters, and looked out at the dawning sky.

Cesare went to his bench and laid his hands on the trunk of Mezzi’s apple tree. Each time he touched the wood, he felt a pleasant sensation in his fingers and hands. Cesare closed his eyes and imagined the cabinet he was going to make from Mezzi’s wood. The sides would follow the curve of the tree trunk. The legs would be carved and shaped with a drawknife and attached with dowels and pins. The cabinet would have a drawer and two doors. It would be like nothing else ever made. The top would have a gentle peak to it. Under the peak, he saw a sunburst in dark bronze.

His work began. First he stripped the bark. He studied the curve of the tree trunk. With chisel, mallet and saw and all of his knowledge he split the trunk in such a way that he had two gentle S-curves for the sides. When Cesare was in the depths of creation, time disappeared. It was as if he were watching someone else’s hands do the work.

Cesare spent every hour of daylight in his workshop. The carcass took shape and stood before him. He scraped and smoothed, filed and fitted doors and drawer. He waxed and burnished the wood until it took on a deep rich glow. Cesare opened and closed the drawer several times, then added a little more beeswax to the runners. He stood back and looked at his creation. He was satisfied and physically and emotionally spent.

Marcella was steadfast and ever helpful. When she brought Cesare his midday meal she would watch him eat, run her hands over her tightening belly and marvel at the new life growing inside her.

With the piece complete except for the bronze ornamentation, Cesare could give Marcella his full attention. He prepared their simple meals, kept the house in order and read from The Decameron. At this point, Marcella found the parodies of the churchmen funny.

Cesare would be paid handsomely for his creation. She suggested they buy a cow and maybe a pig and some cloth so she could make curtains for the windows. He looked forward to making a cradle and a highchair. Marcella already started to rearrange things in their little cottage.

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